Ambassador Gardner’s remarks at the Independence Day celebrations (June 30, 2016)

Fairfax, Virginia 4th of July parade. Photo by Ken White / U.S. Department of State (IIP Bureau)

Thank you for joining this year’s July 4 celebrations. Thank you to all our generous sponsors for helping to make this event a success.

We’ve all enjoyed the Brussels summer. It reminds me of the walks I used to take with my father in the country on cloudy days. He would point to the smallest sliver of blue sky on the horizon and say: “Good weather is coming our way.” We need some of that American optimism in Brussels; we need some of that American confidence in the European Union!

54 years ago John F. Kennedy delivered an address on Independence Day in Philadelphia. He had this to say about the recently created European Economic Community:

“The United States looks on this vast new enterprise with hope and admiration. We do not regard a strong and united Europe as a rival but as a partner…We see in such a Europe a partner with whom we can deal on a basis of full equality in all the great and burdensome tasks of building and defending a community of free nations.”

A few weeks ago, President Obama delivered a speech in Hannover in which he echoed these sentiments: “…the United States, and the entire world, needs a strong‎ and prosperous and democratic and united Europe.”

He quoted former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer: “European unity‎ was a dream of the few. It became the hope of the many. Today it is a necessity for all of us.” Today that dream is still alive. A strong, united Europe helps to uphold the norms and rules that can maintain peace and promote prosperity around the world.

Our Mission recently screened an award winning documentary called Winter on Fire. It tells the story of ordinary, and yet extraordinary, Ukrainians — heroes of the Maidan — who braved the cold and the risk of death to fight for a future in Europe. They were waving EU flags.

Millions of people risk their lives on the treacherous waters of the Aegean and the Mediterranean to reach these shores, not just for economic reasons, but also because of the values that the EU represents.

On nearly every significant regional‎ and global issue of concern to the United States — whether climate change, curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, terrorism, migration, trade, sanctions against Russia and much else besides — the European Union is and will remain an essential partner. We’re not opting out; we’re opting in.

The United Kingdom has made a historic decision and its democratic choice deserves respect. The special relationship that has long existed between the US and the UK will continue. At the same time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the European project.

There is no point in denying that we are sailing in choppy waters. We share a common challenge: populist ideologues and demagogues with sound bite answers and no solutions. Mark Twain famously said: “It’s not what people don’t know that causes all the trouble. It’s what they know for sure that just ain’t so.”

In his Hannover speech the President quoted from a poem of Yeats: “The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.” My hope for the coming year is that on both sides of the Atlantic moderates speak out with passionate intensity, that leaders cast aside wooden bureaucratic language and speak from the heart. Together — the US and the EU — we must find a way to fight against tribalism, communicate more effectively with and deliver more effectively for our electorates, and promote the values that bind us together.

Yes we can. Yes the EU can. Yes you can.

Thank you for joining this celebration of our transatlantic bonds.